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5 Ways To Tap Into the Adult Coloring Book Trend At Work

Today's "to-do" list at work includes four meetings, two conference calls, and 30 minutes immersed in an adult coloring book during your lunch break.

Um, coloring book?

Well, yes. Grown-ups are all about coloring books these days, and how! In December, eight of the top 20 selling books on Amazon were coloring books for grown ups. No wonder it's become impossible to find a decent gel pen set on clearance anymore!

Walk into Barnes and Noble, Michael's, or any other big box retailer, and you'll find adult coloring books on display front and center. At the rate this trend is going, I wouldn't be surprised to find coloring books on display at Jiffy Lube soon. Something to do while we wait for our oil change.

It's no secret that many employees immerse themselves in coloring books to escape the pressures of the daily workplace. It's an easy way to get away from work and clear their minds for a few minutes. It's mandala meditation for the smartphone-encumbered multi-tasker.

Coloring on the commute home from work is one thing, but now companies are incorporating coloring pages into their marketing campaigns, too. I know one person who recently received a product sample along with free coloring pages featuring images of the company's products cleverly incorporated between the paisleys.

In some ways, the coloring book trend is a natural fit for the trendy, "fun" workplace with its colorful tube slides, crayon-colored furniture, arcade games, sandboxes and plastic jars of Play-Doh on the conference room table. Or the Lego table at Google.

These child-like workplace features are all meant to encourage employee creativity, imagination and innovation. And in many ways, they can. But how can you get the most out of the current adult coloring book trend as a manager? Should you tell a stressed-out employee to color a pretty picture and leave it on your desk by 5 p.m.?

Hmm. Assigning a coloring book "project" goes a bit far in my book, but there are other ways management can build a workplace experience around employees' love of adult coloring books. Here are five easy ways to tap into the trend:

1. Add some color to the office. Your office is drab, drab, drab. Why not enliven a few walls with a collage of employees' coloring book masterpieces? Or frame them as a spring gallery show? Employees who put a lot of time into it could feel touched, just like Pam when Michael Scott was the only one who showed up to her art exhibit. Hey, Pamcasso! That is our building, and we sell paper.

2. Have a drawing contest. Who can create the most colorful drawing of all? Put the top three selections at the front desk and let customers and other visitors choose the winner. It's a conversation starter, and you've just found a new, award-winning picture to frame for the reception area!

3. Plan ahead for National Coloring Book Day. No, really: it exists. This year, National Coloring Book Day is on August 2. Print out some coloring pages for the break room, give each employee a coloring book, or have a costume contest where employees dress like their favorite mandala or design. Get creative!

4. Make coloring accessible to all employees. Put a stack of coloring pages and pens in the break room. You might even cover an entire tabletop(s) with a paper sheet for employees to color in, and collaborate on. Why don't you color that flower pink, because it would go better with the purple flower I just finished. (Hey, I said that coloring makes your co-workers more relaxed, not less bossy!) Hang it as a mural in the hallway when it's done.

5. Get management into it, too. This is your chance as a manager to surprise employees who have never thought of you as a creative type. They'll see you having fun while coloring in the blanks, which could go a long way toward your own personal boss branding at work. Wow, I didn't know she could color so well! Yeah, they didn't know you have a minor in Art, do they? Maybe they still don't need to know.

Bottom line: Have fun with it, relax and get your mind off work for a few minutes. Employees are going to love it. Now get coloring!


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